Capitol hears from immigrants and refugees

Mirna Lozano, left, discussed her life as an immigrant during the sixth annual Refugee and Immigrant Day at the Capitol Feb. 20 as religious leaders looked on. She was one of several speakers at the event, including Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz. (Photo Special to The Record by Father Patrick Delahanty)

By Marnie McAllister, Record Editor

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Bethlehem High School’s 2016 senior class president stood before hundreds — including immigrants, refugees and their advocates — in the state’s capitol Feb. 20 describing all the ways she has lived the American dream, thus far.

Mirna Lozano, 20, grew up in Springfield, Ky., which, she said, was “nothing but a blessing.” She worked first in tobacco fields, later in a childcare center and now in a printing firm — all while going to school, she told the crowd who gathered in the capitol rotunda for the sixth annual Refugee and Immigrant and Day at the State Capitol.

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz thanked God for recent immigrants and refugees to the United States during the sixth annual Immigrant and Refugee Day at the Capitol Feb. 20. (Photo Special to The Record by Father Patrick Delahanty)

She was joined at the podium by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, other religious leaders and a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo. The speakers  described the contributions of immigrants and refugees and urged the crowd to chant, “We the People Means All the People” and “Ya’ll Means All.”

Archbishop Kurtz began his speech by repeating, “We the people means all the people.”

“And this is our opportunity to talk about the gift and the dignity of every person,” he said. “When my grandparents came to the United States — my grandfather in 1880 and my grandfather on my mother’s side in 1905 — they turned to our church for help. But they became contributing members of our society.”

The archbishop thanked God for recent immigrants to the United States and noted that welcoming them and keeping the nation safe can be done simultaneously.

“We can do both,” he said.

He added that he’s proud of Catholic Charities of Louisville, which helps resettle refugees in the United States.

“They have helped us in so many ways to be a more compassionate and a more caring community,” he said.

He concluded by praying “that God will bless each one of us as we seek to be a better nation because of the richness that each one of us brings.”

Lozano, who came to the United States from Mexico 16 years ago with her parents and speaks with a decidedly Kentucky accent, said her parents brought the values of “hard work, perseverance, respect, integrity” when they came to the U.S. to escape poverty and corruption.

“Hundreds of Kentuckians work hard and study hard, always remembering the reason why we came here — to obtain an education, begin a career, raise a family, help the community and live out the American dream — el sueño Americano,” she said. “A dream that sometimes becomes very scary … that has an expiration date that we have to renew every two years.”

Lozano is a recipient of DACA — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which means she can work and go to school legally but has no route to stay in the U.S. for good. And she must reapply for that status every other year.

“I don’t want this anymore,” she told the crowd. “I don’t want my community to hide from immigration. I don’t want one day to be separated from my brother — who is a U.S. citizen — or my parents. We all bleed the same and we are more beautiful when we come together.”

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